ICAEW: The destiny of difference & diversity

By John Pinching
10 years ago difference was addressed with quiet platitudes but more recently the volume has been turned up as ICAEW's Dr Antonia Sudkaemper explains

Name: Dr Antonia Sudkaemper
Role: Diversity and Inclusion Manager 
Company: ICAEW

Attracting diverse talent is major priority. ICAEW is a leading professional membership organisation that develops and supports over 186,500 accountants worldwide. Despite significant progress being made to attract and retain under-represented groups, the accountancy profession has not yet completely succeeded in leaving its reputation of exclusiveness behind. The sector still suffers from a perceived lack of diversity, which results in loss of talent from minority groups and the benefits that come from a diverse workforce. 

A vital area of success has been attracting those from a lower socio-economic background into the profession. ICAEW and over 25 employers are part of a charity called Access Accountancy. Set up in 2014 to provide work experience for school students who might otherwise struggle to find a way into the industry, it achieved its initial objective of nearly 4,000 placements in 2019. ICAEW took over as chair of the charity in October 2020 and is keen to accelerate impact on social mobility, expanding Access Accountancy’s focus to include progression.

Despite the current challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as business recovery, a growing number of accountancy firms have added D&I to their board agendas. Access Accountancy has brought on new signatories – including an NHS Trust – while ICAEW has joined forces with employers in pan-profession projects. 

Societal shift

ICAEW Chief Executive Michael Izza was appointed to the City of London Social Mobility Taskforce which aims to improve representation of low socio-economic talent in finance at executive level. ICAEW is also the first professional body to sign-up to the 10000 Black Interns initiative, offering internships to students of Black Heritage across a number of business sectors over the next five years.

Sharon Spice, Director of Global Brand and Belonging at ICAEW and Chair of Access Accountancy, believes these initiatives mark the beginning of a longer journey. She said: “We’ve taken great steps in building a more diverse and inclusive profession over the past decade across organisations of all sizes, but inequalities still exist within the profession. The good news is we are coming together rather than trying to do this on our own.”

Through collaboration with our employers, we can truly put the needs of individuals at the heart of what we do. That’s also why we have initiated discussion groups, to help us fully understand our students’ diverse needs. The outcome of this research will strongly influence our projects in 2022.


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